Note: This article is best read in conjunction w/an older post:
Published: July 26, 2009
Local officials said the files were lost when state workers moved them from the first to the second floor of a government building. But the graduates say they believe officials stole the files and sold them to underachievers seeking new identities and better job prospects — a claim bolstered by a string of similar cases across China.
Perhaps no group here is more vilified and mistrusted than China’s local officials, who shoulder much of the blame for corruption within the Communist Party. The party constantly vows to rein them in; in October, President Hu Jintao said a clean party was “a matter of life and death.”Critics contend that China’s one-party system breeds graft that only democratic reforms can check. But China’s leaders say the solution is not grass-roots checks on power, but smarter oversight and crime-fighting.
But in Wubu, a struggling town of 80,000 banked by steep hills and coal mines, citizens say that local officials answer to no one, and that anyone who dares challenge them is punished.
“When the central government talks about the economy and development, it sounds so great,” said Mr. Wang, the day laborer. “But at the local level, corrupt officials make all their money off of local people.”Student files are a proven moneymaker for corrupt state workers. Four years ago, teachers in Jilin Province were caught selling two students’ files for $2,500 and $3,600; the police suspected that they intended to sell a dozen more. In May, the former head of a township government in Hunan Province admitted that he had paid more than $7,000 to steal the identity of a classmate of his daughter, so his daughter could attend college using the classmate’s records.
The government’s answer, they said, was to reject any inquiry, place the graduates’ parents under police surveillance and repeatedly detain them. Last February, they said, five parents trying to petition the national government were locked in an unofficial jail in Beijing for nine days.
“What is the point of continuing to live?” the father said. “Sometimes I want to commit suicide. These corrupt officials destroyed all our hopes.”